Below is a list of some really good books. They’re on the list because they have really helped me on my spiritual journey. Look them over. See if anything jumps out at you. I hope they help you as much as they have me.
In Christian tradition, spiritual reading begins with the ancient texts. If you’ve never read the Bible, it’s pretty daunting. One way to familiarize yourself with ancient spiritual experience is to read a bit each day, covering all the main points over three years. It is a reading cycle followed by Christians the world over.
- You can buy the lectionary as a book
- You can read it on the web
- You can download an app for Android or iOS
Book by Doug Hammack
We spent a year of Wednesday evenings working on how our community could tell the Christian story in a way that would awaken our souls. Then Doug spent another year writing a book on the basis of our discussions. Then we spent another year talking about that book together (Sunday lessons and monthly lunches). This book will help you get up to speed on a journey we’ve been on together at NRCC.
Books Recently Mentioned
I (Doug) have suggested several books in our last few Sunday lessons.
I don’t have time right now to annotate them, but some folks have had time to read a few, and added their annotations below.
The Righteous Mind – Haidt
This book provided solid research and explanations to validate my intuition that arguing about politics rarely changes anyone’s mind. It gave me a framework for thinking differently about such conflicts, both in terms of understanding why other people think the way they do, and taking a different approach to discussing these conflicts.
Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence – Goleman
This book was a good reminder that the habits of the mind are important, and that good habits can be cultivated. Its discussions about empathy, seeing life in terms of systems, and the threefold focus of inner, other and outer helped me put valuable words to a way of approaching life that I have long practiced. The final chapter on leadership challenged me to look for ways to actively cultivate my influence in the world around me.
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains – Carr
Doing Good Better – Macaskill
Moral Man in Immoral Society – Neibur
How Non-Violent Struggle Works – Sharp
Books by Richard Rohr
- Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
- Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality
- Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
I’ve only listed a few of Rohr’s books but read every one he’s written! Rohr is a Franciscan priest who started the Center for Action and Contemplation. He blends both our need to work for justice and our need to withdraw, reflect, quiet ourselves and draw close to the Divine. They’re good books!
Books by Brian McLaren
- A New Kind of Christian
- The Story We Find Ourselves In
- The Last Word and the Word after That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt and a New Kind of Christianity
This trilogy explores in novel form, how our society is changing in the fundamental way we see reality and how our Christian spirituality will work for us in the new reality.
- A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN
This book strips our faith down to the absolute fundamentals of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It invites us to jettison much that has encrusted our faith and gotten in the way of the love, grace, and forgiveness that are so central to us, yet so frequently missed.
Other McLaren books:
Book by Paul R. Smith
This book reframes the spiritual journey in terms that invite us to a firsthand spirituality, encountering the indwelling Spirit of God directly instead of via a secondhand, institutional, organized-religion version of the spiritual life. Aside from Doug’s book, this book best frames the Christian narrative in which we at NRCC are finding spiritual life and vitality. Put this on the top of your list!
Books by Larry Crabb
- The Pressure’s Off: There’s a New Way to Live
- Connecting: Healing Ourselves and Our Relationships
A psychologist who has worked hard to heal minds, Larry Crabb has come to focus on healing souls. His approach is spirituality-based and comes at interior healing from the vantage point of truth, Christian community, and finding God in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Great books!
Books Exploring Celtic Christianity
- Christ of the Celts by J. Phillip Newell
- The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George G. Hunter
- The Celtic Way of Prayer by Esther de Waal
- How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
So much of how we live our faith in the West is a result of the marriage between the Roman Empire and the Christian Church. It was in many ways an unholy union. The Celts, on the other hand, lived at the fringe of the Roman Empire and were able to interpret how to follow Jesus without the Roman instincts interfering as much. I have found these books liberating as I am framing my own Christian thinking.
Books by Phyllis Tickle
- The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why
- Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters
- The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church
Phyllis Tickle speaks to this moment in history. The Christian Church is in the midst of an upheaval that rivals the Reformation five hundred years ago. She gives texture and context to the moment we’re in. Must-reads for anyone wanting to know why these days are so tough for the Church.
Books by Diana Butler-Bass
Butler-Bass is an academic that is easy to read. Like Phyllis Tickle above, she writes from a historical perspective about this moment in church history. She’s controversial, but I find her insights profoundly helpful.
Books by Cynthia Bourgeault
Bourgeault makes spiritual mysticism accessible to church folks. She speaks to our tradition about a bigger spirituality than organized Christianity often explores. The very idea of mysticism feels out there for many, but two things—1) in the quantum world, mystical spirituality is the new mainstream. We better learn to embrace it. 2) Bourgeault writes very well. She makes unfamiliar concepts very accessible.
Books by Parker Palmer
- A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life
- The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring
- Healing the Heart of Democracy
It serves us well to rediscover the heritage given us by the Quaker Church. Their deep exploration of contemplative spirituality, relational health, and social justice speaks to our culture with an insight and clarity we deeply need. Parker Palmer explores and articulates the insights of his Quaker tradition very well. He’s a prolific writer. You would be well served to read everything he writes.
Books by Nancy Kline
(The latter, an expansion of the former)
The book is an easy read, but it contains one of the most helpful relationship-building, insight-creating strategies we can bring to our interactions with one another. It is required reading for NRCC’s Community Care team. It should be required reading for anyone in relationship with anyone else!
Books by Marshall Rosenberg
After you finish Nancy Kline (above), read Nonviolent Communication. Rosenberg’s book is in the same category of life-changing, relationship-betting wonderfulness as Nancy Kline’s! Once you see the relational dynamics embedded in how we communicate, you just can’t live the same way! Great books!
Books Helping Us Reframe our Image of God
In our series Rethinking Our Story, we talked about how we need to move beyond our anthropomorphic view of God. Here are several books that have helped me do that. Be warned; they’re out there for folks whose view of God has only been informed by Sunday School stories. However, all truth is God’s truth.
This book is mentioned further up the list. It is a book on reframing our image of God (and the Christian journey) and should be mentioned here. However, it’s an important enough book for our community that it has its own heading higher up.
The first 75% of the book will freak many Christians out. It seems to debunk everything we hold dear about God’s hand in history. However, as hard as it is to hear what he says, it’s equally hard to argue with it. I find the last 25% of the book to be a very helpful framework for holding on to the idea of God in a post-Enlightenment worldview.
Just this guy’s name upsets a lot of Christians. I know that. However, he’s been through the fire in his life and has earned the right to make his case. He lays out a way of thinking about God that radically reorients how many of us think. However, I believe his ideas will help us move forward into the new world that is emerging around us.
This woman is just a great historian. Everybody who likes history should read her books!
Books by Ronald Rolheiser
- The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God
- The Holy Longing: The Search for A Christian Spirituality
Rolheiser’s perspective on finding God has helped me immensely. He comes from the contemplative tradition. So consequently, his understandings are fresh for many.
Books By Marsha Sinetar
- Sometimes Enough is Enough: Spiritual Comfort in a Material World
- Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics
- Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow
Marsha Sinetar writes about finding fulfillment and finding peace. She’s a business consultant but writes about how important spirituality, contemplation, and pursuing our God-made passions are to finding our way in a busy-busy, go-go world. Her writings have encouraged me to pay the price necessary to leave what I don’t want in order to find what I do.
Book by Dave Tomlinson
In this book, Tomlinson goes through the fundamental Christian doctrines one by one and helps us see how they can be rethought and re-embraced as we move into a post-modern world.
Book by N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg
Borg and Wright are friends and are at opposite ends of the theological spectrum. They wrote this book about Jesus as friends, listening carefully to one another’s insights. It’s a good book but also a good way to introduce yourself to these two great authors.
Books by Gerald May
- The Dark Night of the Soul : A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth
- Addiction & Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions
Gerald May’s books help us understand what is going on inside us as God works to heal our souls. He looks at the nature of God’s goodness and appeals to that goodness as we see Him use life’s circumstances to strip our souls of the false-self encrustations that hinder us finding Him, finding Truth, and living in reality. It’s not a comfortable process, but it is good.
Books by Beatrice Bruteau
- Radical Optimism: Practical Spirituality in an Uncertain World
- God’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World
Dr. Bruteau is a scientist who works to integrate science, philosophy, and religion. From a Catholic tradition, she has a broad, inclusive view of the world and how God connects to us in our human reality.
Book by Sara Miles
There’s been a lot of fuss in the church about gay/straight, liberal/conservative. If you find yourself on the straight or conservative side of the divide, I’d encourage you to read this profoundly spiritual and moving story of someone on the other side.
A Couple of Books on Slowing Down
The chief enemy of spirituality is busyness. This medical doctor helps us look at our lives and see how to gain more space.
This is a great book, but if you’ve watched his TED Talk, you’ve gotten a lot of what he has to say. The book has much more detail but not many more concepts.
Book by Thomas Keating
The text book on Christian meditation. Fr. Keating introduces us to centering prayer, a modern manifestation of the ancient Christian practice of lectio divina. Fr. Keating is a Catholic monk, so his writing may take Protestant readers by surprise, but it’s well worth pressing past denominational differences/prejudices.
Books by Gary Thomas
- Authentic Faith: The Power of a Fire-Tested Life
- Seeking the Face of God
- The Glorious Pursuit: Embracing the Virtues of Christ
- Sacred Marriage
One of the reasons I like Gary Thomas’s writing so much is that he accesses the ancient heritage of our faith. We’re not the first generation to pursue God, and he helps us draw from the ancient practices, the ancient yearnings of those who have gone before us in the faith. He explores how the ancients found their faith strengthened and points us toward a classical faith.
Books by C.S. Lewis
If you haven’t read these, put them high on your list. You can buy them in a 6-pack that everybody should own for future re-readings. Even if you want to argue with Lewis (many do), his are the definitive insights to argue against.
Book by Ernest Becker
I’m not really suggesting this book … it’s tough to get through. However, if you’ve got the stamina, it is an important book. It fundamentally frames what it means to be human. The primal struggle of our existence is that we have self-awareness; a sense of the eternal within us (my word, not Becker’s), and yet we are mortal. We die. Having the eternal housed in bodies that die creates primal, intolerable, human angst. This angst drives so much of our lives. It is good to stop a moment (actually it will take you many moments) and consider how we deal with this fundamental human dilemma.
Book by Rob Bell
To me, the interesting thing about this book is what happened even before it was published. There was an uproar around its release; some of it before folks even read it. The tumult indicated how touchy we are about our doctrines … the kind of touchy people are when they aren’t that secure in their belief. The author doesn’t really say anything definitive about the afterlife, heaven, hell, or who goes where when they die. Instead, he asks a lot of really good questions about the inconsistencies we face when we hold the traditional Christian view. The anger and hatred his questions stirred up asking these questions is telling. How can we have our own Reformation? How can we rethink our story for the emerging worldview if we can’t even ask questions?
Devotional Books that have Helped Doug
A great devotional book to keep by the bedside. Short chapters (2-3 pages) that help us understand the contemplative approach to our faith.
A spiritual classic from the 17th century, updated for easy reading. The book is arranged in a series of short (2-3 page) letters to his spiritual student. Again, this is powerful spiritual writing worthy of morning devotional reading.
Kelly comes from a Quaker background and writes about those practices that awaken us to the Divine Light within. Even though it was written relatively recently (1941), it truly is a classic that will stand the test of time. It is broken into small sub-chapters that lend themselves to daily reading.
Rolheiser is listed above, but this book is a devotional classic designed in a read-a-chapter-each-day format. It is a book I return to regularly for spiritual reading at the beginning or the end of each day.
- Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard J. Foster
- Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster
Foster’s books aren’t devotionals themselves. They give you historical background that will help you construct your own devotional life.